Understanding friends and strangers: The effects of audience design on message comprehension

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Abstract

Pairs of friends wrote descriptions of abstract stimuli for one another. Later, each subject attempted to identify the referents of three sets of messages: those created by the subject, those created by the friend, and those created by a stranger for his J her own friend. Subjects were most accurate with their own messages, but, more interestingly, they were more accurate with their friends' than with strangers' messages. The lexical characteristics and content of messages for friends were compared with those intended for a generic ‘other student’ or for oneself in Fussell and Krauss (1989). Contrary to our expectations, friends' messages were similar to those for another student in length, vocabulary distribution, and figurative language use, while both differed significantly from messages for oneself: The findings are discussed within a ‘common ground’ framework for communication.

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